Great news out of Toronto yesterday: the Ontario Superior Court has struck down three laws prohibiting prostitution, pimping, and keeping a bawdy house because they are “not in accord with the principles of fundamental justice” and “force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their right to security of the person as protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
A Superior Court justice gutted the federal prostitution law in Ontario on Tuesday, allowing sex-trade workers to solicit customers openly and paving the way for judges in other provinces to follow suit.
Justice Susan Himel struck down all three Criminal Code provisions that had been challenged – communicating for the purposes of prostitution, pimping and operating a common bawdy house.
The decision will take effect in 30 days unless Crown lawyers return with arguments that are strong enough to persuade her to grant a further delay, Judge Himel said.
Her landmark ruling drew immediate fire in Ottawa, which has little time to regroup and battle the judgment. A domino effect of judicial decisions could quickly topple prostitution laws across Canada, as happened several years ago with prohibitions against gay marriage.
If the government loses its appeal, which is likely, the effects of the decision would be more far-reaching and could cause a domino effect across the country.
The prohibition of prostitution, like the prohibition of marijuana, is an example of The Punishment causing more harm than The Crime to both individuals and society. Bans on “The World’s Oldest Profession” cause misery and suffering – just like bans on pot and other drugs – by forcing the business underground into the hands of organized crime, where differences are settled in the street with violence and abuse instead of in the courtroom. Legalizing and regulating prostitution would allow people involved in the trade to get support and help they need from government agencies and the courts, just like every other legal worker.
I’m not sure yet how or if this will affect Canada’s prohibition on cannabis and other drugs (the successful lawyers in this case, Alan Young and Ron Marzel, have also fought battles against marijuana laws), but it is great to see the court finally recognizing the truth about this form of prohibition, and making a decision based on science and research instead of morals and social stigma.